Haiti is the poorest country in the Western hemisphere. More than two thirds of its people live on less than US$ 2 per day. One result is that too many women are unable to afford maternity care – with fatal consequences for both mothers and children. Women in Haiti get little to no prenatal and postnatal care. This, combined with inadequate nutrition and health education, contributes to maternal and child morbidity and mortality – the highest in this hemisphere. In the Grande’Anse region, most poor women are forced to give birth at home, assisted by unskilled helpers, as they cannot pay for antenatal care and a safe birth at a health facility or live too far from the nearest hospital. Removing the cost seemed an obvious way to increase the use of essential maternal health services, so in 2001, through the generous support of benefactors, the Center of Hope (“Sant Lespwa” in the kreyòl language) was constructed as a residential treatment facility for at-risk pregnant women and severely malnourished children.
HHF encourages pregnant women to have a minimum of four prenatal visits at the Center. In the first and second trimester of pregnancy, a monthly appointment is given while during the 8th month of pregnancy, we encourage two visits. During the ninth month of pregnancy, we encourage weekly visits. During this visits, the women are provided with education relative to hygiene practices, good nutrition, and food support.
The Maternal Waiting Home provides residential care for women in high-risk pregnancies – some of the risks include HIV+, diabetes, advanced age, multiple births, and pre-eclampsia. Women from remote villages previously had to walk for hours to receive treatment, travel in a “rickshaw” ambulance, or on the back of a motorcycle, often losing their children and their lives. This facility enables them to be close to the local hospital, helping to decrease maternal and newborn mortality. While at the Center of Hope, the women receive excellent prenatal care, disease prevention and hygiene education, nutritious meals, and clean and comfortable housing.
The Kwashiorkor Treatment Facility is for children who suffer from severe malnutrition caused by protein deficiency. Kwashiorkor is a form of severe protein–energy malnutrition characterized by edema, irritability, anorexia, ulcerating dermatitis, and an enlarged liver with fatty infiltrates. Sufficient calorie intake, but with insufficient protein consumption, distinguishes it from marasmus – another form of malnutrition treated by HHF in the mountains of the Grand’Anse. These children with Kwashiorkor often need to be tube fed, as they have lost the ability to eat. Rehabilitation of these children is often difficult; to help with the treatment, mothers are housed with the children to learn about proper nutrition and to prevent a relapse.
Support the Center of Hope— you can save a child’s life for $500 or provide residential maternal care support to a pregnant woman for only $750.
Our Feed-a-Child Program is conducted at our feeding pavilion at the Center of Hope. HHF feeds warm, protein-rich meals to several thousand children—children who are malnourished, but not sick enough to be admitted to the Center of Hope. Pregnant women are also fed. During these feeding times, HHF uses the opportunity to conduct health checkups, especially on infants and children such as weight monitoring, vaccinations, de-worming, vitamin distribution, immunizations and maternal education. In addition, parents are provided more food to bring back to the other children at home.
HHF has a vehicle emergency transportation program which includes the services of HHF nurses/midwives, our maternal waiting home and appropriate medicines and supplies for perinatal complications. This service is provided to at-risk pregnant women and newborns in the greater Jérémie area in collaboration with outskirts clinics and referral hospital. Often women who are pregnant experience complications and the great distance from their home to a healthcare facility places them at risk of losing their pregnancies and/or dying. The HHF maternal emergency vehicles are not restricted to women living in the rural areas normally covered by the HHF community health activities but also works in partnership with four hospitals and numerous health centers, both private and public.